UFC 168 Preview: Dustin Poirier vs. Diego Brandao

Dustin Poirier (14-3, 6-2 UFC) vs. Diego Brandao (18-8, 4-1 UFC)

A high-level and potentially exciting featherweight fight opens the main card of UFC 168 as Dustin Poirier and Diego Brandao look to cement their status as title contenders when they step inside the Octagon on Saturday night. Poirier is looking for his second straight win after scoring a unanimous decision win over Erik Koch at UFC 164 in August. After starting his career with 12 wins in his first 13 fights, Poirier is just 2-2 over his last four bouts. Brandao enters the fight riding a three-fight win streak after scoring a unanimous decision win over Daniel Pineda at UFC Fight Night 26 in August. Brandao won season 14 of “The Ultimate Fighter” and is 7-1 over his last eight fights.

Fight Breakdown- Poirier was in the title shot discussion at 145 pounds after scoring wins in twelve of his first thirteen fights. He debuted with the Zuffa organization at WEC 50 in August 2010, but suffered a loss to Danny Castillo in that bout, the first loss of his career. He got back into the win column with a TKO win over Zach Micklewright in his next fight, and he made the move down to the featherweight division when the WEC merged into the UFC. He took on Josh Grispi at UFC 125 in January 2011 in his UFC and 145-pound debut, and he actually replaced Jose Aldo in that bout as Grispi was slated to fight Aldo for the UFC Featherweight Championship. Poirier dominated Grispi in that fight and won a unanimous decision, and he followed that with three more wins over Jason Young, Pablo Garza and Max Holloway. He was next in line for a title shot, but he felt he needed at least one more fight. He was then matched up with Chan Sung Jung. Poirier and Jung had an incredible fight that ended up being named 2012’s Fight Of The Year, but it was Jung who came out on top, and Poirier’s title aspirations took a hit. He got back on track with a submission win over Jonathan Brookins, but took another step back with a decision loss to Cub Swanson. His win over Erik Koch in August got him back on track again, but he likely needs a few more wins to get that title shot he craves.

Brandao struggled early in his career as he composed just an 11-7 record over his first 18 fights. It wasn’t until he made the permanent move to the Greg Jackson Camp in Albuquerque that Brandao showed the big improvement in his skills. He went on a three-fight win streak that led to him being named as a castmember of season 14 of “The Ultimate Fighter”. Brandao was a wrecking ball on the show as he scored knockout wins over Jesse Newell, Steven Siler and Bryan Caraway to lead him to a showdown against Dennis Bermudez in the finals. The fight with Bermudez was a back-and-forth war that Brandao won with an armbar late in the first round. He won the six-figure UFC contract and got $80,000 worth of bonuses as well. He suffered a setback when he took on veteran Darren Elkins in his first post-TUF bout as Elkins scored a decision win against Brandao at UFC 146 in May 2012. Brandao came out strong but faded quickly in that fight, and it showed he still had some holes in his game he needed to shore up. He has come back with a vengeance since then with successive wins over Joey Gambino, Pablo Garza and Daniel Pineda. Brandao is looking to break into the top ten in the featherweight division and a win over Poirier would certainly help that.

Both of these men are capable of providing high-level action. Brandao’s fight with Bermudez was one of the top finale fights in TUF history, and Poirier’s battle with Jung was an all-time classic, and the first round with Koch was one of this year’s best rounds of fighting. The styles that both men have should make this fight just as fun as some of their previous fights, and we may end up with a late contender to add to the fights of the year lists. Poirier is a very well-rounded fighter with solid striking and an excellent submission game. He is the only fighter in UFC history to score two submission wins with the D’Arce choke, and he has a tight grip of the neck if he gets ahold of it. Meanwhile, Brandao is an aggressive fighter who starts out very strong, but he does tend to fade fast. He has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and wicked power, but if he can’t finish Poirier quickly and the longer the fight goes, the more it plays to Poirier’s benefit. Poirier survived a hectic first round with Koch as he has nearly finished, and he came back and dominated him. He may have to do the same thing against Brandao.

Poirier is going to have a very big reach advantage of nine inches and he will need to use that to keep Brandao at a distance to where he can set up the takedown. Brandao has to be aggressive and get inside that range as it will open up Poirier’s chin if he can get on the inside. Brandao’s crushing power can end the fight but Poirier does have a worthy chin. Brandao should look to mix up his attack with leg kicks and possibly some flying knees. Poirier has crisp combinations and has gotten better since moving to the American Top Team camp in Florida. If the fight goes to the mat, Poirier has some excellent submission defense, and he will need to use it as Brandao will be on the hunt for openings for submissions. Brandao has the mat skills to get Poirier in trouble, but his conditioning will be a factor. Poirier is going to be the stronger fighter if and when the fight gets into the latter stages. It will come down to whether Brandao can get Poirier hurt early and whether Poirier can recover. Poirier’s toughness is legit. This is a close fight and could be the fight of the night when all is said and done, but Brandao’s weakness of fading fast will hurt him against a strong and solid fighter like Poirier. Poirier gets the decision.

Why It Matters- This fight will go a long way in establishing another contender in the featherweight division. When you have fighters such as Chad Mendes, Ricardo Lamas, Cub Swanson and Frankie Edgar waiting to challenge Jose Aldo, and you have a lot of solid upcoming contenders such as Conor McGregor, Jeremy Stephens and Dennis Bermudez, plus with B.J. Penn coming back at 145 pounds, the depth of the featherweight division is fantastic. Big wins will get you noticed as will win streaks. Brandao has a solid win streak and Poirier has been solid in the division. Poirier has been on the cusp of a title shot before but needs big wins and a win streak to get that status back. A win over Brandao helps both of those things. Brandao believes he will be the champion one day, and a win over Poirier would not only be his fourth consecutive win, but it would be the biggest win on his UFC resume. It is a big bout for both and a chance for both to showcase themselves in front of a huge audience.

Prediction- Poirier

Tags: , , , ,